How Foods High in Saturated Fats Cause Inflammation

Researchers at the Nutrigenomics Consortium and Wageningen University in the Netherlands might have found how foods high in saturated fats cause inflammation. The medical fraternity was aware of the fact that high levels of saturated fat increased risks of chronic diseases like heart ailments and diabetes. However, the mechanism remained unclear to them. The results of their study will be published in the December 2010 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

Knowledge Gained from Research on Foods High in Saturated Fats:

  • Fat available to the body through diet is broken down into fatty acids.
  • Small particles known as chylomicrons get attached to the fatty acids allowing them to travel through the blood stream after passing through the intestinal lymphatic system.
  • Generally, a naturally found chemical lipoprotein lipase enzyme, LPL, further breaks down the circulating fats in order to energize the tissues of the skeletal and heart muscle.
  • But, immune system cells called macrophages which protect our body from external and internal threats also have LPL enzyme at high levels.
  • Studies carried out earlier on this topic revealed that the activity of LPL depended on a chemical called Angptl4.
  • The researchers tried to know the effects of high fat diet on laboratory mice with low levels of Angptl4 protein.
  • The mice were found to show strong immune reaction and die ultimately on feeding only saturated fats.
  • The macrophages in these mice were found to accumulate more fat, swelling the intestinal lymph node, much to the surprise of the researchers.
  • When these cells were made to interact with lymph and fatty acids artificially in the lab, the protein Angptl4 reduced the accumulation of fats in these cells and brought down the inflammation process.


The study showed the role of Angptl4 protein in providing protection against the severe inflammatory effects of foods high in saturated fats. The impact of this research finding can be seen in nearly three percent of the human population which has functioning of the gene associated with Angptl4 impaired.

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